Object of the Month - February 2024

29 February, 2024

Ammunition 13 Pounder

Arriving in our collection in early February 2024, these cartridges were used to fire salutes during Operation London Bridge, the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in 2023. They were gifted to the museum by King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery (RHA) who as the King's mounted ceremonial battery quartered at Woolwich carry the responsibility for the firing of Royal salutes marking the grand occasions of State. Their soldiers are trained to care for 120 horses in the regiment and drive teams of six horses each team pulling an equally lovingly maintained 13-pounder field gun of the First World War era.  

In service with the RHA between 1904 and 1940 this field gun was the standard equipment of the British and Canadian RHA at the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. It was developed in tandem with the 18-pounder field gun used by the Royal Field Artillery. As well as firing the first artillery round of the First World War another 13-pounder was used in a desperate rearguard action at Néry in 1914 during the Great Retreat from Mons when three Gunner Victoria Crosses were won.  

These brass cartridges were manufactured in recent times and continue to be made solely for ceremonial gun firing and contain commercially made black powder to produce the loud bang. In service as quick-firing ammunition, the cartridge would hold cordite propellant and an affixed shell either as a shrapnel round holding 234 lead balls or as a high explosive round holding a small quantity of amatol.  

The blue/green colour at the cartridge neck is the oxidation of copper which together with zinc and other trace elements forms an alloy called brass. This process occurs slowly under atmospheric influence but in this case, it is quickened by the acid in the black powder to copper carbonate.  

Apart from Royal Gun Salutes King’s Troop may also be seen at The Musical Drive of the Royal Windsor Horse Show, the Major General’s Review, the Colonel’s Review, the King’s Birthday Parade, the Lord Mayor’s Show and Remembrance Sunday.